I'm so pleased to invite friend and poet Jacqueline Jules to share her guest post about a new book commemorating the attacks on the Pentagon on September 11.
On the first anniversary of 9/11, the elementary school where I was teaching in Northern Virginia marked the day with a moment of silence on our in-house television news show. A representative from the Student Council read a brief tribute to the fallen.
In the following years, September 11th came and went without school-wide recognition. As the school librarian, I purchased two picture books recalling 9/11: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers and Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey for my collection. The children checked them out from time to time, but they were not in high demand by classroom teachers. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 was not in the curriculum.
Years passed and the children who were in preschool or kindergarten in 2001 grew up. And one day, in a conversation with some of my sixth graders, I learned that my students had absolutely no idea that the Pentagon had been attacked on September 11. I was surprised, since we were all residents of Northern Virginia, where the Pentagon is located. I shared this surprise with a friend. She responded with a suggestion. “Write a book about being in Arlington when the Pentagon was attacked. You lived through this. You know what it was like.”
I was immediately inspired. My own personal memories of that day were still very clear in my mind. I also remembered stories from students, family members, and friends. We talked about that day—where we were and what we did—for months afterward. One friend was late to work the day of the Pentagon attack. An elementary school teacher comforted frightened children who heard the plane hit and saw the smoke. So many stories. So many different emotions and perspectives. How could I give as many memories as possible a voice?
Narrative poetry was the answer. With first-person narrative poems, I could portray multiple reactions from a wide variety of children. In Smoke at the Pentagon: Poems to Remember Kelvin, Age 5, talks about being on the swings at recess and suddenly hearing a loud boom.
Leo, Age 15, thinks about his mother who accompanied him to the dermatologist on the morning of September 1 instead of going into her Pentagon office. Leo wonders “why the people who died/didn’t have somewhere else to go that day,/why they just happened to be where they were/ at that moment instead of someplace else/with someone who must be missing them still.”
Poetry can provide the opportunity to share an individual story on a single page. The twenty children in Smoke at the Pentagon: Poems to Remember range in age from 3 to 21. I hope their stories will help students across the country understand the emotions of those who lived in Northern Virginia on September 11, 2001.
BIO: Jacqueline Jules is the award-winning author of over fifty books for young readers including the Zapato Power series, the Sofia Martinez series, and four Sydney Taylor Honor Books. Her novel-in-verse, My Name is Hamburger, was a PJ Our Way selection in 2022. The back story of her other book of poems for young readers, Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence was shared at Poetry for Children in April 2020 http://poetryforchildren.blogspot.com/2020/04/guest-post-jacqueline-jules.html.
Visit www.jacquelinejules.com to learn more.
Thank you, Jacqueline for sharing this lovely book for this important anniversary.
Now, join the rest of the Poetry Friday group at Pleasures from the Page where Ramona is hosting our gathering.